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Not Always So


Everything You Wanted to Know About Channeling
(But Were Afraid to Ask): "A Definite Residue of Data"
- first in a series -

It's easy to be leery of channelers: they talk in funny voices and are apparently pretending to be someone else. And if you're already into UFOs or Bigfoot, why make your life worse by buying into something that the general public considers to be even more absurd?

But as someone who does a different kind of psychic work, I know that very clear and useful information can come through psychically, simply because it happens for me every time I do a Tarot reading. So I recently began to wonder if the channelers are on to something fascinating in their little corner of the esoteric universe, and we just don't know about it. One of the first channeling websites I happened upon asked a compelling question -- why are we so certain that aliens (if they are out there) would send messages to us via radio waves? If they are so advanced, why would they not not contact us directly through our own consciousness?

If one of these channelers could, for instance, produce the blueprints for a working alien spaceship, that evidence would be as compelling as any hypothetical signal ever picked up by SETI. But could channelers ever receive information that is this detailed? As as student of occult history, I would have to say that the answer is theoretically, yes.

The Enochian system of angelic magic, which was channeled in the seventeenth century by Elizabeth I's court magician John Dee and his irascible partner, Edward Kelley, is a good example of channeled information that seems too complex and internally consistent to have been produced by the gibbering of the unconscious mind. Enochian is a difficult system to explain, let alone practice (though interested parties should consult Lon Milo Duquette's clear and straightforward Enochian Vision Magick) but channeling the Enochian system was the equivalent of psychically receiving a mixed-up Rubik's Cube. Only later, when Dee and Kelley messed around with it, did they see that the colors could be made to line up on all six sides.

Somewhat surprisingly, psychic methodology has evolved slightly since the age of Shakespeare. Instead of prayers and prostrations (the general method used by Dee to get into the mood to talk to the angelic forces) the trend nowadays is what is called "trance channeling" or "deep trance mediumship," where some kind of disembodied entity seems to take over the channeler completely and talk through her (usually in a faux medieval accent). This method potentially allows reams of highly detailed information to come through, with virtually no interference from the channel herself, who often has no memory of what was said.

Unfortunately, most modern channels are famous for only spouting platitudes and nonsense. This doesn't surprise me. When studying occultism, one of the first things you learn is this: don't trust everything you hear, especially when it comes from disembodied spirits. It is said that the spirit world operates a lot like a New York City bus terminal: you really need to know where you're going and who you want to talk to. The real New Yorkers are busy, and anyone who has time to come up and talk to some random newcomer (or to some kids messing with a Ouija board) is probably either crazy or a con man.

Sadly, a quick survey of the messages transmitted by the most well-known contemporary channelers suggests that someone in the spirit world is indeed having a laugh at somebody else's expense. "Abraham," the group of entities speaking through Esther Hicks (they all like to be called Abraham -- as Hicks says on her website, "they just are what they are"), are very upfront in their insistence that "you may appropriately depart your body without illness or pain." Avoiding Death And Taxes is a common theme among the disembodied set. "Ramtha The Enlightened One," a bodiless dude who says he lived 35,000 years ago on the mythical lost continent of Lemuria, claims that visible signs of aging are also optional. Unfortunately, J.Z. Knight, the Washington woman who has been channeling Ramtha for the last thirty-two years, seems as unable to make this work for herself as the rest of us are.

So if this is all that channeling is about, why bother looking further? Two reasons. First, as we'll see in upcoming columns, channeled information has influenced American popular culture of the last forty years in all kinds of ways, both subtle and obvious. Secondly, and more intriguingly, there have been some apparent successes that have left us what researcher Ian Blake calls "a definite residue of data."

More on this topic to come.